Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


The transition to university can be a stressful time for many students, whether it is smooth and successful, or full of difficulty. While the transition to university can be taxing enough, it also coincides with the period in which adolescents are said to be developing their sense of identity (Erikson, 1968). Given the stress many students experience, the Transition to University (T2U) Program, a social support focused intervention, was developed to assist students with the adjustment (e.g., Lamothe et al., 1995; Pratt et al., 2000). The purpose of this research was to examine the effects of the T2U Program on university adjustment, identity, and factors that facilitate identity development. This was examined in two studies. Study 1 a examined the relationship between participation in the T2U Program, university adjustment, and more traditional conceptualizations of identity: identity processing style (Berzonsky, 1988), and identity status (Marcia, 1966). Three mechanisms proposed to facilitate the process of identity development (confidence in parental support, a sense of industry, and having a self-reflective approach to the future; Marcia, 1983a) were also examined. Results showed that women who took part in the intervention adjusted better to university compared to women in the control group. Participation in the T2U Program was also found to be significantly related to higher scores on identity status. With respect to the mechanisms that facilitate identity development, participants’ sense of industry mediated the relationship between participation in the intervention and development in identity processing style over the course of the first year of university, such that taking part in the T2U Program was related to increases in participants’ sense of industry, which was found to be related to gains in informational identity processing style. Identity status was found to be a marginally significant mediator of the relationship between participation in the intervention and university adjustment, such that participation in the T2U Program was related to the development of a sense of identity, which in turn is related to better university adjustment. Study 1b examined university adjustment, and the impact of the T2U Program on a different conceptualization of identity: narrative identity, or the development of a life story. Participants’ stories of a turning point event (an event that brought about a change in who they were, or how they thought of themselves) and stories of their future plans were examined. Results showed that participation in the intervention was either unrelated, or negatively related to story ratings. However, while ratings of participants’ turning point stories were not related to university adjustment, results showed a consistent significant relationship between the amount of exploration in participants’ future script stories and university adjustment. These results are discussed with regard to the development of the life story over the life course, and relationships between narrative identity and more traditional conceptualizations of identity. Results are discussed from a developmental perspective. Issues related to power, story length, and methodological issues are also examined.

Convocation Year


Included in

Psychology Commons